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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Album Review: Royal Thunder – CVI

Remember the magnificent shootout finale of the Western The Good, The Bad And The Ugly? Remember the slowly-ramped tension as the combined charisma of Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach sashayed into a sun-parched circle, their characters goaded by either greed or honour into a Mexican stand-off. The building drama as the camera flicked from the revealing long-shot to close-ups on the guns of each man before switching to achingly linger between each of the trio’s headshots. The sweaty forehead and panicky, flitting eyes of “Tuco” (The Ugly), the distrusting sneer and dark glances of “Angel Eyes” (The Bad) and the timeless cool and wedged cheroot of “Blondie” (The Good). The importance of Morricone’s nail-biting musical score to that scene was paramount.

The scene is replaying in my mind’s eye as I’m listening instead to the three-and-a-half minutes of agonisingly torpid, steadily-building drum rolls, the ballooning bass, the dulcet chimes and Wild West string-bends of the track “Blue”, from ’s debut album CVI. There are four crescendos in total here and at the climax of the last, when two of the guns fire and one of the men falls, the vocal kicks in. It makes for an interesting alternative to Morricone’s ultimately irreplaceable masterpiece.

There’s most definitely a kind of dark potency which lurks within ; they create mood music to inspire waking dreams such as these. The band boast an array of different styles and each roughly manages to inhabit its own character within that sun-parched circle. There are soft, emotion-inveigled, crystal-clear slowies like the “Sleeping Witch” and “Minus”, crawling, sludgy proggers like “Parsonz Curse” and “Shake And Shift”, and stone-cold rockers where the galloping drums and rolling riffs drive the music forward as the vocals suddenly begin to lose control like they do for “Whispering World” and “No Good”. Someone’s going to win this shoot-out and it’s probably going to be messy.

Mlny Parsonz’ vocal range is a huge part of what creates these factions. The fact she can go from the bluesy “Parsonz Curse”, where her vocal is at its most masculine, to the crystal clear femininity and gentility of the opening to the psych-tweaked “Drown” is jaw-dropping. One minute she’s summoning up the earthy, yet piercing quality of Robert Plant or ’s Andrew Stockdale, using it to fend off the band’s slides back towards doom-mongering plod, and the next she’s flicked a switch, brushed off the dust, and turned herself into an Lennoxian angel (a reference to the crystalline vocal of ’ Annie Lennox for those knowledge-seekers amongst you).

There is a small problem with CVI and the root of it lies in the way it divides its time. The top-half of the album is fast and loose, daring and boldly antagonistic, whilst the bottom-half is dark and laconic, drawing deep on the pipe of peace, blowing smoke rings around your head in an attempt to woo your soul out to play. You may equally enjoy both halves but, for the rest of us, we will tend to veer towards preferring one over the other. “South Of Somewhere” is a microcosm of this – it spends four minutes building softly from dustbowl winds, through chimes and lullabies, before ditching the ephemera to snap into a minute of howling punk rock. It’s insane.

Yet, are startlingly talented. Their songwriting is ground-breakingly good because they aren’t afraid to take risks with it. CVI may not feel like an interconnected album as much as it feels like an eclectic cast line-up from a movie, but every character is fully-realised and absorbingly rich in detail. So, if you don’t completely buy into the simple beauty of “Minus”, then you surely won’t ignore the nine-and-a-half minutes of keen riffs, barbed hooks and scorchingly progressive fire that all lurk within “Shake And Shift”. There’s my gun-toting hero, right there; now I recommend you go check this out and find your own star.

Also online @ The NewReview (with samples) =  http://thenewreview.net/reviews/royal-thunder-cvi
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